Importers are also obliged to keep detailed records of the products they import
and sell. These documents have to be kept for at least six months after the expiry date of the product concerned. Supplies of products of animal origin have to feature a health certificate issued by the competent authority of the exporting country (Veterinary Health Certificate for Animal Products).
The health certificate is trilingual (in Chinese, English and the language of the exporting country). It is quite general in nature and contains, inter alia, the following information:
- Company details including veterinary number
- Information identifying the products to be shipped
- Information on means of transport
- Recipient data
- Certification by an official veterinarian
Health certificates may be signed only by authorised official veterinarians, a list of which is communicated by the veterinary authorities of the exporting country to China.
The food system in China, including imported products, is supervised by the following authorities:
- State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR): https://www.uschina.org/sites/default/files/samr_-_state_administration_for_market_regulation_2018.10.pdf
- National Health Commission of China (NHC): http://en.nhc.gov.cn/
- General Administration of Customs People’s Republic of China (GACC): http://english.customs.gov.cn/
In addition, there is a number of legal acts concerning poultry products:
- GB 7718-2011 – General Rules for the Labelling of Prepackaged Foods
- GB 2707-2005 – Hygienic Standard for Fresh (Frozen) Meat of Livestock
- GB/T 17238-2008 – Hygienic practice for meat processing establishments
- GB 9959-2-2001 – Fresh and Frozen Poultry Product Standard
- GB 16869-2005 – Poultry National Standard
- GB/T 20094-2006 – National Food Safety Standards for Uses of Food Additives
In addition to meeting food safety requirements, the importer has to meet a number of formal import and customs requirements:
- Obtaining a trade licence from the Ministry of Trade (MOFCOm) – http://english.mofcom.gov.cn/)
- Registration in the customs system (GACC)
- Submission of an Automatic Import License document with a description of each imported product to MOFCOM.
Despite significantly lower duties and easier customs procedures, every importer importing meat into Hong Kong is required to register and then obtain the relevant import license from the Hong Kong Department of Food and Environment Hygiene. The registration process can be carried out by means of correspondence or online tools (Food Trader Portal). Link to the document: https://www.cfs.gov.hk/english/public/public_fi/files/fehb284.pdf
Link to the online portal: https://www.ftp.cfs.gov.hk/
In any case, the licence application is free of charge. From 2012 poultry importers have to fill in additional documentation when applying for a licence. A licence may only be granted to importers who are registered under the “Registration Scheme for Food Importers and Food Distributors or food traders exempted under the Food Safety Ordinance”. Among other things, companies should register in the system a person responsible for food and environmental hygiene. A guide on how to complete this process, together with a number of forms dedicated to the relevant products, can be found at:
The license is active for the declared imports for six months. Information and contact details, including the telephone number, can be found at:
Once an import licence has been obtained, formalities concerning the cold store and storage have to be completed. A registered importer should use a registered cold store from the existing list or notify a new cold store if they do not intend to use facilities already notified.
The list of facilities is available at:
The application form is available at:
According to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), it takes an average of 5 working days to obtain permission to import products. The transport notification may take place before the cargo reaches the port, however, FEHD inspectors are required to check the cargo before delivery.
Each consignment of poultry has to be accompanied with a health certificate in a form agreed between the veterinary authorities of the exporting country and Hong Kong, issued by the veterinary inspection.
The health certificate is bilingual – in English and in the language of the exporting country and contains, among others, the following information:
- Information on the consignor
- Product purpose
- Origin of the product
- Data concerning the means of transport and consignment identification
- Product identification
- Health attestation
- Official stamp and signature of an official veterinarian
The basic legal act regulating trade and production of food is the Food Safety Ordinance and the fifth part of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance. It follows, inter alia, from those acts that consignments of meat products without an appropriate health certificate or handled in an inappropriate manner cannot be placed on the market.
Part five of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance deals with protection of customer rights, labelling standards, food hygiene and food recalls. Link to the document (sections 4-6):
The Food Safety Ordinance is a set of legal bases for import licences and food safety measures:
There is also a set of good practices and additional requirements related to the marketing of products. Operators placing on the market imported food are obliged, inter alia, to keep information on when and what products were purchased, from whom, contact details, quantity and description of the food purchased. For more information, see the link: